I've always had just one horse. I'm the only person in the house that rides. We took on a boarder a couple months ago to help with the finances and now my gelding doesn't like to go away from his new girlfriend. Before she came he loved to trail ride and actually slowed down when I turned towards home because he didn't want to go back to the barn. Now I have to pedal him constantly on the way to where ever we're going. He behaves great on the return trip. He doesn't rush, just walks nicely on the way home. He is just so balky on the way out. If we go two miles, I have to struggle with him the whole two miles. When we trailer off somewhere he is perfect. It's just riding off the property. It just really annoys me. He doesn't call to her or get upset, he's just sneaky about it. He'll drift to the side of the road and when I give him some outside leg to get him to move center, he'll take that opportunity to rotate around and head back in the other direction. If I let him sniff the ground or drink water, he knows the reins will have slack, so he'll use that moment to turn back towards home. I always turn him around and make him go back in the direction we were going. Another thing he does is walk so slow that I could pass him going backwards. It just is so tiring! What should I do?
At this time your horse thinks the barn with his girlfriend is a great place to be and is slow about leaving there. If there is a way to separate their living arrangement at the barn that will help. As far as riding, use some psychology and make the barn not such a great place to be. Ride a short distance from the barn then allow your horse to return to the barn. When he arrives at the barn put him to work vigorously. Do lots of trot circles, figure 8s, backing, turns on forehand and turns on haunches. All these are constructive exercises that would be good to improve with him anyway. After he is breathing hard ride him a short distance from the barn but out of sight of the barn and offer a rest break there for him. For the first few sessions of this he will likely not take your offer of rest but will want to immediately return to the barn. That's fine. Let him return to the barn and immediately upon arrival put him back into heavy work for a short while then ride away again and offer rest a few hundred yards or quarter of mile away from the barn. You may have to turn up the volume a little on your requests for work and be more assertive with him.
You can also try this. Take short rides (1/4 mile) out from the barn and come back to the barn then don't even stop, ride into the barn lot then head straight out again in a different direction 1/4 mi then back to the barn, then out again in a new direction, then repeat again, etc. etc. He'll get tired of hurrying up to get to the barn if it just means immediately leaving again to go out. Keep him guessing about when you are going to really stop at the barn.
Hopefully, before you begin this training program, you have established a good foundation of leadership and respect with him through ground training exercises such as our Six Keys to Harmony program.
After a few sessions using this technique he may begin to understand that he has a choice of going out on a quiet ride with you or working hard at the barn. After you return from a trail ride don't unsaddle, brush and feed him right away. That just makes coming back to the barn even more attractive. When you return from a ride don't dismount. Save a little riding work to do in the barn area then just leave him tied up and saddled. Ignore him for a half hour or so before you unsaddle. If you're consistent with this training he will get the idea that being with you and going where you want to go is a better deal than wanting to be at the barn.
Enjoy the Journey,
Ed Dabney is an internationally acclaimed clinician, presenting horsemanship and riding clinics all over the US and in Europe. In 2007, Ed was named Champion of the East Coast Trainer Challenge Series by Equine Extravaganza. Ed was honored to have been selected by the University of Georgia to teach their senior level Young Horse Training course.
His training articles have appeared in many major national magazines. Ed produces instructional videos and the “Gentle Horsemanship” TV program which has been seen on RFD-TV.
Ed's blending of natural horsemanship and classical equitation has made an indelible mark with students all across the United States and now also in Europe, drawing the attention of serious riders searching for the lightest touch and the deepest connection with their horses irrespective of breed or discipline.